Was that bottom of the ninth inning in Camden Yards tonight a perfect microcosm of the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox?
Jonathan Papelbon gets the first two outs on strikeouts and looks overpowering in doing so.
Then the roof caves in.
Back-to-back doubles and a single to left that Carl Crawford couldn't catch (and it looked like he could), and the Red Sox season crashes and burns against the Orioles, 4-3.
And New York blows a 7-0 lead in St. Pete, and the Rays win it in the 12th on an Evan Longoria home run, 8-7.
The Sox dropped five of the last seven against Baltimore, a team they dominated over the season. They also had upteen opportunities to add more runs throughout the night on Wednesday, leaving runners all over the place in the last three innings.
The collapse is now done, and part of history. I won't defend it, or make excuses for it. A 9-game lead on September 4th with 24 games to play, and it disappeared. It's worse than 1978. Worse than their worst collapse ever: 1974. They died at the finish line.
But as horrific as this is, the 1964 Phillies are still the gold standard for collapses at the finish line.
(And on a side note, someone I know on Facebook wrote that he "never had to hear about the Yankees choking in the 2004 ALCS again after what happened to the Red Sox this year." Is he kidding? These are two completely different animals. The New York collapse in 2004 happened in the postseason, in a short series. This happened over nearly four weeks. The NYY collapse WILL live forever because it has never been equaled in 108 years of MLB postseason baseball, and every time a team in MLB, NHL or NBA falls into a 0-3 hole in a 7-game series, the Sox amazing comeback is always mentioned. And always will be.)
The Sox blew it, plain and simple. I don't blame Terry Francona, Theo Epstein or the coaches. It's all on the players. All of them. Changes, and I bet big changes, are on the way. Everybody and his godfather picked the Sox to not only win the pennant, but also to win the World Series.
Take a good long look in the mirror, boys. That's where the blame belongs. You embarrassed not only your loyalest fans and city, but yourselves. And you can plug the blame mostly on the starting pitching, which was simply putrid coming down the stretch. And Josh Beckett and Jon Lester in particular. They were supposed to be the stoppers, but they stopped nothing.
Well, that wraps up another baseball season. A long winter awaits.